News Roundup and Notes: December 9, 2014

Before the start of business, Just Security provides a curated summary of up-to-the-minute developments at home and abroad. Here’s today’s news.

SENATE TORTURE REPORT

The Obama administration clashed with Republican critics yesterday, ahead of the expected release of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the CIA’s post-9/11 practices this morning. Former Vice President Dick Cheney added his opposition to the report’s conclusions, stating that the CIA’s former interrogation methods were “absolutely, totally justified.” [New York Times’ Mark Landler and Peter Baker]

The U.S. has stepped up security for American personnel and facilities overseas, in anticipation of the report’s public release. White House press secretary Josh Earnest said that there were “some indications” the report could pose a risk to American interests abroad following a backlash over the report’s findings. [Wall Street Journal’s Felicia Schwartz]

The CIA will offer security assessments for former officers that could be identified in the Senate report; officers will not be named in the report but agency personnel are concerned about their personal safety should they be identified through contextual references. [The Daily Beast’s Shane Harris and Kimberly Dozier]

The CIA made 20 criminal referrals involving interrogators to the Justice Department, former spokesperson Bill Harlow said yesterday. The agency’s internal efforts to police its interrogation program form the major part of its defense against the Senate panel’s conclusions. [BuzzFeed News’ Aram Roston]

Tensions within the Obama administration over the Senate report were highlighted by Secretary of State John Kerry’s phone call to Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein last Friday, report Jake Tapper and Evan Perez. While the CIA and State Department have been fighting publication of the report, the White House and Justice Department are eager to get it “done and over with.” [CNN]

The Senate report undermines the president’s record on being “a driving force” in exposing CIA abuses. The administration’s months-long battle over redactions is “reflective of [its] ambivalence about what once seemed like a clear-cut commitment to transparency,” reports Josh Gerstein. [Politico]

The Senate report confirms that “torture doesn’t work,” a conclusion that “couldn’t be less supris[ing]” to professional interrogators, who know that “torture tends to solicit unreliable information that sets back investigations,” writes former special agent Mark Fallon. [Politico Magazine]

Granting pardons to officials involved in the torture program “may be the only way to establish, once and for all, that torture is illegal,” argues ACLU executive director Anthony D. Romero. [New York Times]

IRAQ and SYRIA

U.S. allies will send up to 1,500 troops to Iraq to support the growing U.S. military presence that will train and advise Iraqi and Kurdish troops in the fight against the Islamic State, according to American officials. [New York Times’ Helene Cooper]  During a visit to Baghdad, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said that despite increased U.S. support, the outcome of the operation to defeat the Islamic State will hinge on the ability of the Shi’ite-led Iraqi government to garner widespread support among Iraqis. [Washington Post’s Missy Ryan]

The Syrian government has called on the UN Security Council to impose sanctions on Israel following accusations that it bombed areas close to Damascus international airport and a town close to the Lebanese border. [Reuters]

Iraqi officials are pushing for a winter offensive against the Islamic State in the captured city of Mosul, despite warnings from the U.S. that such an operation is premature. [New York Times’ Eric Schmitt]

Gunfire at the Turkish-Syrian border killed three Turkish soldiers overnight; it is as yet unclear whether the deaths were directly related to the conflict or an unfortunate military incident. [Wall Street Journal’s Joe Parkinson and Ayla Albayrak]

An al-Qaeda commander denounced the use of beheadings to his deputy in Iraq in a letter almost a decade ago; the deputy, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, went on to found the Islamic State, reports Rukmini Callimachi. [New York Times’]

The Australian government accused the Islamic State of using foreign fighters as “cannon fodder.” A report published today says that the group is tricking Westerners into believing they can play an important role in a religious crusade. [AP]

AFGHANISTAN

ISAF Joint Command formally ceased operations in Afghanistan during a ceremony at the command’s headquarters in Kabul. [Central Command]  Azam Ahmed interviews Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson, the departing commander, who offered a “nuanced take” on the final year of the Afghanistan war. [New York Times]

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel underscored the differences between the Iraq and Afghanistan drawdowns on Sundayhighlighting the transitional nature of the process to “help Afghans build their capacity … build their institutions, train, assist and advise.” [DoD News’ Claudette Roulo]

ISRAEL and PALESTINE

Members of the Israeli Knesset voted to dissolve parliament yesterday evening ahead of general elections scheduled for March 17. [Haaretz]  Jodi Rudoren suggests that Israel is going “through something of an identity crisis” as Israelis and Jewish people elsewhere ask “whether Israel can continue to be both a Jewish homeland and the lone democracy in a region torn apart by ethnic and religious strife.” [New York Times]

Secretary of State John Kerry has reassured Israel that the U.S. will not interfere in elections by involving itself in any way “in the choice of the Israeli people.” [Haaretz’s Barak Ravid]

Palestinian diplomats participated in an observer capacity at the annual meeting of state parties to the International Criminal Court, upgrading their status within the organization but still not falling under the court’s jurisdiction. [New York Times’ Somini Sengupta]

RUSSIA and UKRAINE

Canada has signed a declaration with Ukraine building stronger military ties; a team of 10 Canadian soldiers will train Ukrainian forces in the areas of military police. [CBC News’ Murray Brewster and John Ward]

Ukrainian government forces are observing a ceasefire with pro-Russian separatists in the east of the country after President Petro Poroshenko called for a “Day of Silence” to make the latest deal hold. New peace talks between the two sides may take place in Belarus in the coming days. [BBC]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

The Ninth Circuit heard oral arguments in Smith v. Obama yesterday. Orin Kerr discusses the arguments in the legal challenge to the NSA’s Section 215 telephony metadata program. [Washington Post]

The mass government surveillance exposed by Edward Snowden “is fundamentally contrary to the rule of law … and ineffective,” the Council of Europe’s commissioner for human rights argues in a report. [The Guardian’s Owen Bowcott]  Meanwhile, a senior EU official said that the NSA’s mass surveillance serves as “a real trade barrier” to European internet companies seeking to provide services in the United States. [Reuters’ Julia Fioretti]

Sen. John McCain sank the confirmation of Elissa Slotkin as assistant defense secretary for international security affairs; the incoming chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee called Slotkin “totally unqualified.” [The Hill’s Kristina Wong]

The Senate unanimously approved the FOIA Improvement Act yesterday, sending the bill aimed at easing disclosure of records under the FOIA to the House.  [Politico’s Burgess Everett]

The Senate is expected to advance a cybersecurity bill that would clarify the scope of the Department of Homeland Security’s cybersecurity role. [The Hill’s Cory Bennett]

Stolkholm’s international airport has been partially closed following a bomb threat to one airplane, according to police speaking today. [Reuters]

Africa was the focal point as members of the International Criminal Court opened their annual meeting yesterday, as the court struggles to deal with the collapse of the case against the Kenyan president. [AP]

The Gulf Cooperation Council will launch a joint military command, according to regional officials and analysts. The creation of this “unprecedented” force is inspired by NATO and is designed to face threats from the Islamic State and Iran. [NPR’s Deborah Amos]

A suicide attack in the eastern Yemeni province of Hadramout has killed five people today, and wounded eight others. [Al Jazeera]

Indonesian President Joko Widodo has reached out to Muslim organizations in the country to ask for their help in combatting Islamic extremism. [Wall Street Journal’s Ben Otto]

Yezid Sayigh offers a detailed analysis on “the crisis of the Arab State,” arguing that the Arab Spring marked “a moment of decisive rupture in systems of political and administrative control” that led to significant shifts in the important civil-military relations in these countries. [Washington Post]

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About the Author(s)

Ruchi Parekh

Former Associate Editor at Just Security Follow her on Twitter (@RParekh88).

Nadia O'Mara

Former Assistant News Editor at Just Security